Election 2015: The political colours of the South East

Louise Stewart
Political editor, South East

image captionNigel Farage resigned as UKIP leader after losing South Thanet to Conservative Craig Mackinlay

The pollsters certainly didn't predict this outcome.

It was a good night for the Conservatives across the South East - as it was across the country (apart from in Scotland).

In Kent, the Conservatives' strategy to decapitate the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, worked and he failed to win South Thanet, losing out to the Tory's Craig Mackinlay.

The party also claimed another UKIP scalp in Rochester and Strood. Where candidate Kelly Tolhurst, who lost to Mark Reckless in last November's by-election, won convincingly.

The Tories also did well in some of the Sussex marginals. Labour threw a huge effort at winning Hastings and Rye but Amber Rudd held on and more than doubled her majority.

In nearby Brighton Kemptown, Simon Kirby was defending one of the slimmest majority's in the South East but he also retained his seat.

image captionKelly Tolhurst took Rochester and Strood for the Tories by defeating UKIP's Mark Reckless

Losing Lib Dems

The Tories made most of their gains across the country at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. And in the South East it was no different.

The former Home Office minister and Lib Dem MP Norman Baker lost his seat in Lewes to the Conservative, Maria Caulfield.

And his fellow Lib Dem, Stephen Lloyd, also lost his Eastbourne seat to the Tories.

In fact it was a catastrophic night for the Lib Dems.

They were very confident of holding on to their two Sussex seats and also thought they would make a gain in Maidstone.

So much so that Nick Clegg spent quite a bit of time canvassing here. In the end, as elsewhere, they've been wiped off the map.

For Labour, the glimmer of good news in the South East was that their candidate, Peter Kyle, successfully took Hove. But otherwise it was a truly dreadful night for them.

They disappeared off the map in the South East at the last election and five years on there is no sign of a resurgence.

Ed Miliband appeared to have given up on Kent but Labour did pour resources into the marginals in Sussex.

In fact, the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, was one of the big-hitters who made several campaign trips to Brighton and to Hastings.

Having been one of the biggest casualties of the night - having lost his own seat in Morley and Outwood by just over 400 votes - he may now regret trying to woo voters in Sussex.

It was a good night for Caroline Lucas, who increased her majority in Brighton Pavilion, but she remains her party's only MP.

There is already talk of her taking over again from Natalie Bennett as leader - she said it would be up to the party to decide. Watch this space.

image copyrightPA
image captionCarline Lucas increased her majority to hold Brighton Pavilion for the Greens

Future Lord Farage?

And as I touched on earlier, it wasn't a good night for UKIP. The party's leader.

Nigel Farage, failed at his seventh attempt to become an MP. He finished second to the Tories, with Labour in third place. However, shortly after the result he said he "had never felt happier" and the "weight had been lifted" from his shoulders.

In almost record time, following his defeat, he announced he would resign as leader. He said he would take the summer off. But, crucially, he didn't rule out standing again - the message seemed to be he wants a rest but he may be back.

It was also not a good night for UKIP in terms of seats - they come out of this election with fewer than they went in with and now have only one - Clacton, in Essex. But in terms of their share of the vote the party has done pretty well, with its share of the overall vote increasing.

UKIP supporters will feel very sore that despite winning almost 4m votes, and being the third party in terms of share, they retained only one MP, compared with the SNP, which has 56 MPs for a very much smaller share of the vote - about 1.4m.

So, I think today's result will increase calls for electoral reform and also calls for UKIP to be represented in the House of Lords.

Nigel Farage may not be an MP but with UKIP now the third party in terms of share, I wouldn't bet against him becoming Lord Farage in future.

The results are in, the counting done and we now know what the new political landscape looks like in the South East.

image captionHelen Grant kept Maidstone and The Weald for the Conservatives

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